I greeted my wife cheerfully one morning and received a frosty glare in return. My wife is not a morning person.
“How did you sleep?” I asked, undaunted.
She rolled over, refusing to look at me.
Uh-oh. She wasn’t usually this grouchy. I wondered what was amiss as I took another brave stab at conversation. “You must be tired.”
She gave a derisive huff but still wouldn’t speak. The prickling of the hairs at the back of my neck warned me that this was more serious than her general morning malevolence. Something was wrong. I asked, “Are you upset with me, hon?”
At this, she sat bolt upright, scowling at me with unmistakable animosity. I gulped. I was in trouble. Big trouble. I had no idea why my wife was so angry, which only intensified my apprehension.
She shot out of bed and turned to face me again before the rage spilled from her lips. “Upset? I’m furious! I had a dream that you left me! You just picked up and left! How do you just abandon your pregnant wife and children to satisfy your own selfishness?! I have every right to be angry at you!” Tears welled in her eyes as she stomped away to the bathroom.
It took a moment for the absurdity of the situation to permeate my brain. I was in real trouble because my wife had dreamed a very vivid, very fictional dream. I wanted to tell her how silly it was to be angry at me for something her mind had conjured up, but having survived four previous pregnancies, I knew that telling an emotionally unstable pregnant woman that her feelings were silly would likely win me permanent residence in the dog house.
Thus, I was put in a position where I had to deal with the consequences of her perceived abandonment, even though it wasn’t reality.
As Project Managers, we are often put in situations similar to the one in which I found myself with my wife. A client may review a statement of work and expect something more than the requirements outlined. The client may become dissatisfied, even angry, because of a perceived problem brought on by misinterpretation of the statement of work or unrealistic expectations. It is up to the PM to manage, both, the project and the client; to carefully steer them toward accepting the reality while respectfully dealing with the very real consequences of mistaken perceptions.
The following steps can help ensure a positive, successful project completion:
For both the client and the Project Manager, the goal is the same: successful project completion. If you have established trust and communication at the outset, you will be able to diffuse difficult situations that arise before they become serious. Whether the problems are real or perceived, the foundation of trust and communication you have built can mean the difference between your client’s cooperation and insurrection. This method, though beneficial in a professional setting, has, most unfortunately, not proven effective in diffusing my wife.